Reinvest in Mental Health and Addictions
Over the past several months, the Covid-19 pandemic has exposed serious gaps in many of the ways we respond to Islanders in crisis.
In particular, I am very concerned with mental health and addictions – and the very real prospect of a difficult situation being made much worse.
As we all know, there are thousands of Islanders and families who deal with the challenges of mental health every day. During the pandemic, I have heard heartbreaking stories of individuals and families who are finding it more difficult to cope – and even more problematically, to find help and treatment.
For instance, we know from a recent Statistics Canada report that one in five Islanders consulted with a mental health professional last year.
Add in the difficult toll of the pandemic, and it’s clear that government has to quickly adapt its services and programs to meet needs that are shifting very quickly.
For instance, I know of a family that is diligently helping out with an elderly parent at home. The main caregiver suffers from complicated mental health issues – and in spite of that individual’s absolute dedication to the task, the strain of providing daily care is showing. But with the pressures currently faced by those Islanders who work in mental health, it is difficult for that family to get the assistance they so often need.
There are many stories like that – and they are not confined to those with mental health challenges.
As the pandemic wore on, I began to hear more and more about the growing problem of opioid addictions. Unfortunately, in a stressful time, many people have found it more difficult to cope with addictions – and gain access to the professional help they need. Furthermore, I have heard many cases of addictions relapse, which is very painful for both the addicts and their families.
In my opinion, we need to examine our current mental health and addictions programs in the light of Covid-19. We all know the systems that serve Islanders were at capacity limits pre-pandemic. Now, it’s quite apparent that our investments in mental health and addictions will require major new investments – and most particularly in training more people to help Islanders with growing challenges.
Recently, the federal government took the first major step in helping Islanders. The Safe Restart Agreement provides about $50 million to the Island for a variety of new initiatives – which include improvements to mental health and addictions.
I will be looking to the provincial government for its plans to re-invest in mental health and addictions – and furthermore, will advocate for a comprehensive new plan to increase the number of people trained to provide these much needed services to Islanders.
And frankly, there is no time for delay. For instance, this is what United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres had to say recently: “Unless we act now to address the mental health needs associated with the pandemic, there will be enormous long-term consequences for families, communities and societies.”
To my mind, a concentrated, immediate and dedicated effort will help prevent those long-term consequences.